Pillen picks former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to fill vacant Senate seat

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has been tasked with filling the Senate seat left vacant by Ben Sasse.

Gov. Jim Pillen, who was sworn in last week, announced his decision to appoint Ricketts at a Thursday press conference, saying he was the clear choice for the position.

In his last days as governor, Ricketts told Channel 8 that he would love to have another opportunity to serve the people of Nebraska.

“We want to take the things we’ve done here and bring them to D.C. so that we can continue to have the greatest nation the world has ever seen,” Ricketts said.

SEE ALSO: ‘One step at a time’: Ricketts awaits Pillen’s Senate decision

Sasse ended his time as a senator on Sunday, about two months after he was named president of the University of Florida.

Ricketts, who served as Nebraska’s governor for eight years, was an avid supporter of Pillen and spent over a million dollars to help his 2022 campaign.

Pillen addressed concerns over making any secret deals, saying “in our business, that’s a good way to go broke.”

“That’s not part of my DNA; it just doesn’t work,” he said. “Integrity of the process and commitment to the process was the highest priority.”

Sen. Deb Fischer also spoke at the press conference and said she had no problem with the process of finding Sasse’s replacement.

Pillen confirmed that he received over 100 applicants for the position but only interviewed nine people for the job, none of whom were Democrats.

In a statement, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said Pillen appointed Ricketts as a way to “pay him back for buying the governor’s seat.”

“This is the most blatant pay-to-play scheme we’ve seen in our state and it’s happening right in front of us all,” Kleeb said. “Nebraskans deserve a Senator who will work for them, not someone who buys elections as a hobby.”

Precious McKesson, the executive director of the state party, said she looks forward to watching how Ricketts will seek to better represent everyone in Nebraska, including Democrats and Independents.

“Senator-designate Ricketts has said he wants to make government work for the people of Nebraska,” she said in a release. “I hope he remembers all people in Nebraska, including those people and issues he has repeatedly sought to marginalize: women’s reproductive freedom, equal rights, voting rights, and support for our strong public schools.”

Ricketts will serve as a senator for at least the next two years.

In 2024, voters will determine who will fill out the remainder of the term.  The seat will again be on the ballot in 2026, this time for a full six-year term.

Ricketts said he has committed to running in both of those elections.

After Ricketts announced that he had applied for the Senate seat, Rep. Don Bacon said the Nebraska delegation looked forward to “hazing the junior member.”

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